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Concrete Cleaning: The Complete Guide

Having level, safe concrete is important, but if it's dirty and covered with oil stains, mold, and or salt deposits it can be an eyesore. Most of us take pride in our homes and want it to have great curb appeal. Dingy concrete is one of those things you don't often think about, but actually there are some simple techniques you can use to brighten it up and bring it back to life. This guide will walk you step-by-step through the process of cleaning that dirty concrete up, and bringing beauty back to your home.

Concrete Cleaning and Power Washing

Importance of Concrete Cleaning

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of concrete cleaning we should mention there are actually some important reasons, other than looks, that might make you want to consider cleaning your concrete. Any surface discoloration can be a sign that something is eating away at your concrete. Mold growth actually sends small tendrils down into your concrete, and over time can damage the surface, causing it to flake and pit. Salt, either purposefully put down to help with ice or carried in off your automobiles from the street, can be a major contributor to damaged and pitted concrete. Getting these impurities off your concrete is important to the life of your driveway which could be the difference between having to replace it in ten years, verses fifty.

Needed Equipment & Supplies

Cleaning your concrete isn't really a difficult task. With the right equipment, you can clean an average size driveway in a few hours. The main piece of equipment you'll want is a power or pressure washer. And you'll need some kind of cleaner for those difficult spots and stains.

Pressure washers come in many shapes and sizes and are usually rated by PSI. This determines how powerful the spray is coming out of the nozzle. There are electric versions and gasoline-powered versions. Either will work, but for the best cleaning of your concrete, we recommend a pressure washer of about 3500 PSI or more. Anything less than that and you'll really have to work to get the dirt and grime off your concrete. These types of power washers can usually be rented from your local hardware store.

You will only use water in your power washers, but we do recommend pre-treating stains with an appropriate cleaner. What solution you use will depend on the type of stain you have. For oil stains, we often recommend "Micro Clean from Arrow Magnolia." This is a powerful, environmentally-friendly cleaner. The downside is you typically have to purchase it in large quantities. There are many other products on the market (too numerous for us to test them all) but a quick trip to your local hardware store should get you something to try.

For rust stains, a mild acid like vinegar might do the trick, but if the stain is large, or if it's been there a while a more commercial acid cleaner might be in order. Again, do your research to find the appropriate product, but whichever you choose, be sure to protect your eyes and skin as these types of cleaner can cause serious damage.

Definitely follow the directions on the product label, but for most products, you apply the solution to the stained area and work it in with a hard-bristled brush. Then let it sit for a while until it works its magic on the stain.

Step-by-step Guide

Following these steps can get you on the road to beautiful concrete again.

  1. Prepare the concrete and surrounding area — With a broom, sweep off any loose debris and dirt. If you have doors or painted surfaces next to the concrete, you may want to mask them off with tape and heavy-duty plastic or tarps. This will prevent the power washer from removing any paint accidentally.
  2. Pre-treat any stains — This may need to be done a day or two before you actually clean the concrete.
  3. Configure the pressure washer — Most pressure washers come with several different tips. Choose the one specifically for cleaning concrete and hard surfaces. Attach your garden hose to the pressure washer and adjust the pressure gauge to it's highest setting. Caution: The high-pressure can cause injury to your body. Be sure to wear proper foot coverings (hard shoes) to protect your feet.
  4. Pressure wash the concrete — Beginning at the top of the slope, begin spraying the concrete using an overlapping pattern. It will probably take a few minutes to figure out how much time you need to spend on each section. Basically, spray an area until you can no longer see the difference between strokes of the wand. Continue this pattern until the whole area is clean. NOTE: you can also purchase, or rent, a round surface scrubber attachment. This allows you to clean a wider area in one pass. You still may need to go over it again with the wand, but it can speed up the cleaning process.
  5. Seal the concrete — After thoroughly cleaning your concrete, it is a good idea to seal it against future dirt and stains. Check out this guide on sealing concrete.

That's all there is to it. If this isn't something you want to undertake yourself, many of our locations offer pressure-washing and sealing as a service. Click below to submit an inquiry to your A-1 Location.


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A-1 Concrete Leveling, Inc.
(888) 675-3835
388 S. Main St. Suite 402b,
Akron, OH 44311